Put yourself in the place of the shepherds and ask yourself the question … how would you feel?
Why? The angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
We sing of that glory so often, we think it’s glorious!
But the glory of the Lord was something tangible, special, felt in the holiest of holy places, felt on the mountain top … it was for the Moseses of this world, for the High Priest … not for the shepherds, not out in the fields.
They were terrified.
And then the voice of the angel speaks.
‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah,* the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13
What could that mean? A messiah – a longed for king. Anointed of God – for all the people.
What would this king be like? The kings of old had let themselves down, they had let their people down, they had let God down … and the prophet Ezekiel had been so outspoken.
Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.
The prophet had been so certain … the day was coming when God’s rule would break in upon his people, and the rule of God would be rule of a great and good shepherd,
I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
Could this be what was happening?
There was more to the message of the angels …
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying, 14‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace good will among people’
In a state of fear?
Hear the word of the angels … Do not be afraid.
Hear again the good news of the coming of Christ.
Know that he comes as the Good Shepherd …
‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.
What the shepherds did was to go and find out … they went and saw for themselves and then they had a message to share.
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19
Put yourself in the place of the shepherds … hear the message of the angels, see for yourself … and spread the news.
But what is the message of the angels?
Think for a few moments … and reflect … what is the message the angels have for our world today?
Write that message on your angel …
1 It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold:
'Glory to God! On earth be peace,
from heaven's all-gracious King!'
The world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the angels sing.
2 Still through the cloven skies they come,
with peaceful wings unfurled;
and still their heavenly music floats
o'er all the weary world:
above its sad and lowly plains
they bend on hovering wing;
and ever o'er its Babel-sounds
the blessed angels sing.
3 Yet with the woes of sin and strife
the world has suffered long;
beneath the angel-strain have rolled
two thousand years of wrong;
and we, at bitter war, hear not
the love-song which they bring:
O hush the noise and end the strife,
to hear the angels sing.
4 For lo, the days are hastening on,
by prophet-bards foretold,
when, with the ever-circling years,
comes round the age of gold;
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendours fling,
and the whole world give back the song
which now the angels sing.
Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876)